Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

My Steve Kowit

by Sylvia Levinson

For days, since learning of Steve’s death, I have read the emails and Facebook posts from so many whose lives he touched. I have talked with others—heard the words—generous, kind, funny, loving, poet, teacher, mentor, publisher, friend. He was all of those things, had such an impact on hundreds of students, colleagues, friends. He connected me to so many of you beautiful, gifted poets, writers, friends.

And, yes, when I tell of him, I use those words, too. This is how I knew him.

Steve was my first poetry teacher more than 20 years ago and has been over and over again, at workshops, classes, and readings; at The Writing Center, Southwestern College, San Diego Writers Ink; at coffee shops and bookstores and churches. He once asked me to co-teach a class for Seniors and Alzheimer’s patients at St. Paul’s Villa. What a thrill and validation!

His greeting, always, “How are ya? Ya doin’ OK?” in a way that I knew he meant it, he really wanted to know. As we aged together (we are the same age), we began to share news of a bad back or tweaky knees, hearing aids and cataract surgery; how things that used to be easy now took much more energy. Not complaints, but a common bond.

I have not been able to make sense of the reality of his death until today—four days since I heard the impossible news. It left me reeling, shocked, devastated—dramatic words I rarely use, certainly never frivolously or cheaply, their meaning so profound.

It has been impossible to conceive of my world, our world, without him in it. Today I write it, think I can wrap my brain and heart around the truth of it. I don’t claim to have been as close to him or known him as well as many. I do not negate others’ perhaps, even greater feelings of loss. Mine is deep; it is my own. Today I add a word to the list of praise for this man who means so much to me—authentic—he was the most real person I know—an authentic human being. Oh, yes, I’ll also add “cheerleader.” He always wanted us to do well!

I send to all who loved him, and to his beautiful wife, Mary, whom he loved so much and whose loss must be the greatest of all, the wishes, the words he emailed me on my birthday. “Hope it’s a wonderful, fertile, productive, healthy deliciously happy year! Hugs & more hugs, love & more love, Steve.”

Yours in grief and gratitude,
Sylvia Levinson

—Previously published in “Tributes to Steve Kowit” in the San Diego Reader (7 April 2015), where Steve Kowit was the editor of the weekly poetry column since 2006; republished here by author’s permission

SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Sylvia Levinson

moved to California in 1962 and to San Diego County in 1974, which she hopes qualifies her as a “local.” Her poetry life began when she worked in marketing at the Old Globe Theatre for several years. She is the author of a chapbook, Spoon (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Gateways: Poems of Nature, Meditation and Renewal (Caernarvon Press, 2005). Her work has been published in several journals and anthologies including: Blue Arc West, City Works, San Diego Writers Ink, Magee Park, The Christian Science Monitor, The Reader, and Serving House Journal.

She believes “retirement” is an active verb which propels her poetry, workshops, volunteer work at KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM, and attendance at many theater and jazz performances each year.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury